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CBRN Assessment

North Korea fires ballistic missile that reaches 2,000 km altitude

16 May 2017
North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on 14 May that reached an altitude of over 2,000 km before falling into the Sea of Japan. Source: Via Rodong Sinmun

North Korea test-fired a ballistic missile on 14 May that reached an altitude of over 2,000 km (1,243 miles) before falling into the Sea of Japan (also known as East Sea), in what seems to have been the longest-range missile tested by Pyongyang to date.

The missile was fired in an east-northeasterly direction from an area near the western city of Kusong, North Pyongan province, at approximately 05:28 h local time, said Japanese, South Korea, and US officials, adding that it flew for about 30 minutes, travelling a linear distance of about 800 km.

US Pacific Command said in a statement that, although the type of missile fired is still being assessed, its flight was "not consistent with an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM]".

A day after the test launch - the seventh by the communist regime this year - North Korean state-run media issued images and video footage showing the missile being carried on a MAZ-547V-like transporter erector launcher (TEL) vehicle equipped with protective covers for the wheels. The missile was then shown being fired from a launching pad at an undisclosed location.

The weapon was described by the Rodong Sinmun newspaper - the daily of the Workers' Party of Korea - as "a new ground-to-ground medium [to] long-range strategic ballistic rocket called the Hwasong-12 … capable of carrying a large-size heavy nuclear warhead".

The North Korean missile launched on 14 May was described by North Korean state media as "a new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket called the Hwasong-12". (Via Rodong Sinmun)The North Korean missile launched on 14 May was described by North Korean state media as "a new ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket called the Hwasong-12". (Via Rodong Sinmun)

The test launch, which was overseen by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, "proved to the full all the technical specifications of the rocket … such as guidance and stabilisation systems, structural system and pressurisation, inspection and launching systems, and re-confirmed the reliability of [the] new rocket engine under the practical flight circumstances", according to the paper.

It also verified "the homing feature of the warhead under the worst re-entry situation and accurate performance of [the] detonation system".

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